Stand

“This is not just about me,” says one of the cast at the start and close of Chris Goode’s Stand. The six actors, sat on a line of stools, each on its own isolated platform, with their script on a stand in front, perform the words of six activists – or at least “people who act”. The aim, it would seem, is to use the words of real people to explore and share (and perhaps even explain) what it is that inspires “ordinary people” to “act” – whether it’s by making a stand against BP’s sponsorship of Shakespeare, animal experiments, or just speaking up against the selfish cruelty of other bus passengers.

Stand has something of interest to say, certainly; but as a theatrical experience it’s radio.

The six activists who are at the heart of this piece are a diverse lot, in terms of age, gender, race and class; yet there are suggestions that they were non-conformist from the start – standing out from their peers by reading a lot, or arguing against any authority from early childhood – generally, they were considered “an oddity”. Sooner or later, they picked on some cause, some injustice which inspired them to engage more actively with the world, and sooth the rage they’d increasingly felt – simply through the act of doing something. It might be just putting warning stickers on the windscreens of cars parked on the pavement, but the sense of empowerment was, we’re told, amazing.

As a witness to the world of activism, Stand does offer some interesting points; that it’s all too easy to become obsessed by the wrongness you’re fighting; that, even if the change you want happens, you can't be sure it was your efforts which did it. “You have to take the issues seriously, but not yourself seriously,” one activist says. “You just have to start something and hope it works out,” says another.

All food for thought, but what isn’t at all clear is why any of this is in a theatre. Stand fails to justify how staged performance is a better medium for such reportage than, say, a montage of the actual activists’ own recorded voices, which would likely reach far more people if broadcast on radio or YouTube. “When you’re playing me, be passionate,” says one of the activists, via an actor whose portrayal, while warm, is hardly energetic. Earlier, in a rare attempt at some theatrical staging, one interviewee suddenly has to pop off to “check (her) puddings”, and so the actress walks off stage – a device so mannered, unnatural and poorly lit to be annoying. Even worse, another cast member fails to naturally portray an activist’s clear reliance on “like” as a verbal tick – in her mouth, it not only sounds forced, but condescending.

Stand has something of interest to say, certainly; but as a theatrical experience it’s radio. 

Reviews by Paul F Cockburn

Multiple Venues

Nests

★★★
Dundee Rep Theatre / Macrobert Arts Centre

The Yellow on the Broom

★★★
Underbelly, Bristo Square

Tom Neenan: It's Always Infinity

★★★★
Assembly George Square Studios

Police Cops in Space

★★★★★
Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre

Rik Carranza: Still a Fan

★★★★
Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre

Marmite

★★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Was it a split second decision, or a cause that’s haunted you for decades? An act of bravery, or something “anybody would do”? Was it forgotten as quickly as it happened, or do you think about it years later? Who did you stand up for, and what made you do it?

Oxford Playhouse and Chris Goode and Company present STAND, real life stories of courage and conscience from Oxford residents who stood up for something, or someone, they believed in.

In STAND, six activists – or at least, six people from Oxford who have chosen to act – take the stage and step in to the spotlight, portrayed by six actors: and the ideas to which they are devoted could hardly be bigger or more important.

They’re ideas about how we make for ourselves a better, more sustainable future; how we live more equitably alongside those with whom we share our planet; how we protect from harm the places that tell us who we are; how we build our families and communities and raise our kids to have an instinct for bravery and kindness.

And, most importantly perhaps, how we keep moving forward in the face of greed and corruption, and our own doubt and fear.